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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Stage review

Twirling around the globe in ‘Heartbeat of Home’

“Heartbeat of Home’’ draws on Latin, Irish, and hip-hop dance styles — and a band at the sides of the stage — to create its multicultural spectacle.

Jim Byrne

“Heartbeat of Home’’ draws on Latin, Irish, and hip-hop dance styles — and a band at the sides of the stage — to create its multicultural spectacle.

We customarily associate sequels with Hollywood, which seems nearly incapable of making any other kind of movie.

But “Heartbeat of Home,’’ a dance and music spectacle now making its East Coast debut at the Citi Wang Theatre, is also a sequel of sorts: It’s from the producers of “Riverdance,’’ the preposterously successful Irish step-dancing extravaganza.

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If only sequels were always this good. Seeking to paint a more global picture than “Riverdance’’ did, “Heartbeat of Home’’ builds an engrossing visual narrative by drawing on Latin, Irish, and hip-hop dance styles. That artistic decision enables “Heartbeat’’ to largely avoid the repetitive, monotonous patches that undermined its otherwise worthy predecessor. “Heartbeat’’ is not just more diverse and more eclectic, but quite possibly more dynamic than “Riverdance.’’

Much of the credit goes to the remarkable cast, a multicultural cadre of exuberant young performers who pull out all the stops in a variety of dance sequences that range from the explosive to the lyrical, and, of course, to the choreographers who devised those routines. The cheerful and energetic band, whose members sit on movable platforms on either side of the Wang stage, also adds substantially to the sizzle.

“Heartbeat’’ is also notable in the way it takes advantage of the advances in video technology since “Riverdance’’ debuted a couple of decades ago.

In one spellbinding scene titled “The Tempest,’’ a mighty, heaving (projected) sea rages behind the performers while they dance with a combination of fervor and near-martial precision, as if their lives depend on presenting a united front against implacable Nature. At the end, they give a triumphant yell, as if to say: We’re still here.

The “Don’t Slip Jig’’ relies on video wizardry to bring us swooping up to the top of a skyscraper, where a group of dancers, attired a bit like ironworkers and meant to represent the generations of emigrants who built the world’s great buildings, execute a hard-shoe routine on a narrow beam.

The story “Heartbeat’’ tells in act one is one of emigration, leaving home — whether home be Ireland or Africa or Spain — and setting out on a journey into the unknown. In act two, the story evolves into a series of encounters with other cultures and influences, expressed in such numbers as “Tango Nuevo’’ and “Flamenco Fuego.’’

Over the course of the evening, the cast showcases their athleticism and their skill at tap, salsa, tango, hip-hop, jazz, and ballet. And, yes, step-dancing. Because it’s not incessant, it’s a welcome and striking sight: their upper torsos stiff, their hands balled into fists at their sides, their feet generating thunder below.

Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com.
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